James Thomas collapsed from exhaustion just before the finish line as the Broomfield Cross Country runner brought all his strength to one last kick.
"I hit 100 meters and my legs just slacked off," said Thomas, who finished third and fourth in his Class 5A region last week. "I fell and could hear everyone cheering behind me. So I got up, took a few more steps, looked at the finish line and just dove.
“Everything got dizzy, but I kept thinking, 'Every place counts. I can't let anyone hit me to get the guys to say something. "
Thomas's dramatic jump secured his third place and pushed the Eagles into the postseason.
"I've never seen a child run so hard," said Broomfield cross country coach Greg Weich. “It was really gratifying that this effort was not wasted. All the other guys were doing perfectly well to qualify. It was wonderful."
The high school boys and girls state cross country get-together is held on Saturday in Colorado Springs at the Norris-Penrose Events Center. Few teams are as grateful for a shot at a team title as Broomfield, whose top runner has marginalized – and overcome a subsequent health crisis.
Thomas will compete on Saturday, but for a few nervous hours after the regional competitions, his running future seemed in jeopardy.
"I've never felt anything like this before," said Thomas. "It was 10 minutes after the race and I'm still in the tent. I still breathe heavily and could hardly see anything. I knew it was probably bad."
Thomas's mother, Brooke Smith, took her son to a nearby hospital for IV fluids, which lifted his spirits. However, based on the EKG and blood test results, doctors suggested that Thomas immediately be taken to the children's hospital for an ultrasound scan of his heart. You needed to rule out any associated long-term health concerns.
"He was definitely nervous because there was this window of time when we tried not to think too much about it," said Smith. "What if the doctor comes back with …" You're done running. "
After nearly 10 hours between two hospitals, Thomas was finally released with a clean health certificate. He ran in training the next day. Thomas said an extremely quick start in the area and low salinity contributed to his physical breakdown.
"James was a perfect example of a kid who runs completely for his team," said Soft. “I don't think most people who run for themselves can get to this point. If you run a little more, you will likely run with absolutely nothing.
"It was a very special moment for him to get up and land in third for his team."
Thomas qualified as an individual for the state meeting for the past two seasons. For the senior, this is his first and last trip with the Broomfield Boys team by his side. He's ready for one last kick to the finish line.
"The goal for me is to get as close as possible to the top 5 and get in there when I can," said Thomas. “It'll just boil down to preparing as hard as possible that day and racing. Hopefully nothing happens like it did last week. But you never know. "